A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
A bunch of the names that popped up on the list were moved to new teams in the days and hours leading up to Monday’s trade deadline: Tobias Rieder, Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Spooner and J.T. Miller. Several other players with recent arbitration filings had long been dealt (Peter Holland) or are constantly in trade rumours (Alex Galchenyuk).
If you’re looking for a red flag that a team and a player might not be long for each other, an arbitration filing is a biggie.
Even though most NHL cases are settled before an actual hearing takes place, a seed of distrust is planted. We see you as less valued than you see yourself. It’s nasty stuff. (See: Stroman, Marcus)
However, not all arbitration paperwork ends up going full P.K. Subban. Brayden Holtby and the Capitals seem to have a healthy relationship, for instance.
So, which RFAs that hold arbitration rights in the summer of 2018 could be in for a wage war?
Mrazek, Namestnikov and Miller could all be at it again with their new clubs.
For various reasons, the names Robin Lehner, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jason Zucker, Mathew Dumba and Andreas Athanasiou all pop out as players who could push for more money than their GMs are eager to surrender.
2. How will Colorado’s slide from a playoff position affect Nathan MacKinnon‘s Hart Trophy chances? What about Claude Giroux and the Flyers’ ascension? Patrice Bergeron‘s broken foot? Taylor Hall‘s ridiculous point streak?
This is shaping up to be a compelling awards season, and one related debate that arises every spring is whether members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association should make their ballots public. I’m curious what fans think…
3. The servers receiving the flood of deposits when the NHL in Seattle’s ticket drive opened Thursday were overloaded with traffic like they were CapFriendly.com on trade deadline day. Too much excitement to handle.
This likely wasn’t a shock to Mathew Barzal, who played four seasons for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
“It was a really good hockey market when we were playing. The fans jumped on us pretty quick, and we were getting 5,000 to 6,000 a night in junior in a little town outside of the city,” Barzal says.
“It’ll be a good spot for a hockey team. I think it’s going to be cool. I’m a Vancouver guy, so that’ll be good for a rivalry. Vancouver fans will jump on that quick. The city of Seattle is enthusiastic about sports.”
I asked the 2018 Calder champ if he ever made a road trip from B.C. to check out Mariners or Seahawks games.
Nope. Barzal was never much a baseball or football guy. He’s into hockey, lacrosse and basketball — and as a ’97 baby, the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp glory days were before his time.
4. Go ahead. Accuse Brad Marchand of a lot of things, but please don’t accuse him of being a bad quote.
When the Bruins rolled through Toronto, Marchand gave the typical praise for his (now injured) centreman, Patrice Bergeron. He’s smart, talented, and avoids high-risk plays. But then he took it a step further.
“He should definitely be up in the Hart Trophy race every year,” Marchand said. “When you talk to guys he plays against and you hear how much they dislike playing against him, you realize how important he is to our team.”
We’ve heard the Hart buzz, which likely fizzles with the broken foot. But what about the Art Ross? Could Bergeron win that trophy one day if he set his mind to it?
“If he just wanted to play offence, cheat to score goals and make plays,” Marchand said.
“If you want to be a high-end guy, you have to cheat a bit. Everybody does it. All the top guys in the league that score, they cheat. They definitely don’t play the defence that he plays. If he wanted to go that, he could definitely be up there.”
5. They’re still talking about that kiss.
When Marchand faced off against the Maple Leafs Saturday for the first time since he smooched Leo Komarov on the cheek instead of fighting him, players on both sides of the rivalry were asked about the pest’s unique kill-’em-with-kindness strategy.
“Nobody ever thinks that [is coming]. I think that left Leo a little confused in his mind, not knowing what the relationship is going forward,” Mitch Marner said. “That’s a confusing thing to do to someone, but whatever works. He’s a helluva player out there.”
Marchand denied there was any tactical motive pushing his lips toward Uncle Leo’s face.
“I wasn’t really trying to make him uncomfortable,” he said. “I thought we were having a moment.”
6. Sabres enforcer turned analyst Rob Ray appeared on Boomer and Warrener in the Morning to discuss the two big names in Buffalo that made headlines at the deadline: Evander Kane and Robin Lehner.
According to Ray, trading Kane was less about ensuring a massive return and more about taking the first step of getting the dressing room under control for the younger kids coming in.
“There were too many question marks following him. You can understand it. I tell you what: Now that he is out, there’s a pretty happy group of 20-some guys in the dressing room,” Ray said of the stud winger. “There was some [maturation] in certain areas. In other ways, some people are never going to change. They’re going to be that same person. Over time, it kinda wears on a group, especially a group that things aren’t going well for.”
After leaving Winnipeg and Buffalo unceremoniously, it would be fantastic if Kane — still a young talent — can find a fit with San Jose. How hard Doug Wilson tries to re-sign the impending UFA will be telling.
As for Lehner, who denied a reported trade request, Ray said the goalie says things post-game out of emotion, then second-guesses some of his words. Responsibility weighs on him. He cares so much, that when things start going sideways in the Sabres’ end, he “starts to play coach” and gets distracted.
“If he was on a team that had a defensive core in front of him that could play defence, he’d be really good,” Ray said. “If he was on a good team? Heck, yeah. He can stop the puck.”
7. You know that ol’ saying: Their fans travel well.
So, ticket re-sellers SeatGeek put some math to that sentiment and found out which visiting teams drum up the most business.
The struggling Chicago Blackhawks still lead the way, with the Penguins, Rangers, Canadiens and Maple Leafs rounding out the top five:
8. With sharp San Jose backup Aaron Dell inking a two-year extension this week for $1.9 million per season, the free agent market for goalies has gone from thin to thinner.
No netminder set to hit the open market has more than 18 wins.
St. Louis’s Carter Hutton (16 wins, .935 save percentage) is looking like the best of a bunch that features a handful of familiar backups (Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier, Anton Khudobin, Kari Lehtonen) and a couple starters who’ve struggled with health and/or inconsistency issues (Jaroslav Halak, Antti Raanta).
Keep an eye on two guys who could shake the market.
Michael Hutchinson: Despite battling concussions, Winnipeg’s third-stringer is having the best pro season of his life, posting a .942 save percentage in the AHL. He won both his NHL appearances and put up a .933 save percentage in a tiny sample size with his big club. He’s only 27.
The Jets need to give RFA Connor Hellebuyck a juicy raise, but veteran Steve Mason is on the books for one more season at $4.1 million.
Petr Mrazek: The Flyers’ new favourite goalie is set to turn RFA, but if Ron Hextall doesn’t offer the Czech a qualifying offer of $4.15 million (his 2017-18 salary), he’ll turn unrestricted instead.
Mrazek is off to a fine start, but the Flyers have already committed a combined $5.5 million in salary to the injured tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth for 2018-19.
9. One is an American living in Canada, the other is a Canadian who has fallen in love with his American home.
Not enough can be said about the courage and truth Blake Wheeler and Roberto Luongo showed in their responses to the Parkland shooting. These are two leaders their teams — heck, the whole sport — should be proud of.
Hockey players are discouraged from standing out. But these dads did so in the best way possible.
The term standup guy can be thrown around too loosely, but when Wheeler tweets something, he never shies away from the ensuing questions.
Well…then let’s stop letting them down, Mr. President https://t.co/mZUb7z8Odm
— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) February 22, 2018
“It’s been going on too long without anyone really doing anything to help. It just seems like something that should be fixable,” Wheeler told reporters in Winnipeg. “It’s been great in our room this year. It’s probably the most we have chatted about important things going on in the world. It’s a great thing because it opens up the dialogue.
“As an American, I have three kids now, and you start to get scared thinking about them going to school in the United States. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Parkland resident Luongo’s unscripted speech at the first Panthers home game following the shooting is important.
10. I do appreciate how Luongo keeps his Twitter feed exclusively light, and that he favours quality over quantity. There’s a time to be serious; social media can still be a playground.
The gold-medal-winning goalie’s response to a Tim and Sid fan poll this week was brilliant.
In the fetal position inside the net https://t.co/S7TQd78PFg
— Strombone (@strombone1) March 1, 2018
11. Quote of the Week is a tie.
Brand-new gold medallist Pavel Datsyuk’s reaction to Russia’s Olympic victory is simultaneously beautiful and sad. And New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight scoffs at a hockey cliché.
“He plays a 200-foot-game? Everybody plays 200 feet. That’s the size of the rink.” —Doug Weight
12. Glove throwing is the new water squirting, kids.